Nuclear’s Slice of the Climate Pie

Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/toucanradio/1203009991/">Toucanradio</a>, via Flickr.

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Senators hoping to pass a climate and energy bill this year have listed increased support for nuclear power as one of the major enticements for Republicans and apprehensive Democrats to back the legislation. Barack Obama gave nuclear power a shout-out in his State of the Union address last week, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the lone Republican collaborating on a bill, has made it clear that nuclear incentives are among his top priorities, which he believes could help garner wider support.

Yesterday, The Hill obtained a draft of the nuclear title that is expected to be included in the Senate bill, which includes basically everything the nuclear industry has asked for: additional federal loan guarantees to spur the construction of new plants, tax breaks and a streamlined approval process for new plants.

Most notably, it calls for, “A doubling the authorization for loan guarantees from $48.5 billion to $100 billion, of which $38 billion will be available for nuclear plants.” (The Department of Energy announced on Monday that it plans to triple loan guarantees, to $54.5 billion, so it’s been a good week for the industry.) The draft of the Senate language would also give nuclear power the same investment tax credits that wind and solar power currently receive.

The office of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) says this is not the most current draft, but the senator confirmed to The Hill that the incentive and guarantees are part of their plan. He also said that they are making progress on titles dealing with renewables, natural gas, and offsets, but haven’t reached a decision on the mechanism to cap and price carbon dioxide. Kerry, Graham and co-sponsor Joe Lieberman have made it clear that they don’t intend to release a final package, however, until they have the votes to pass it.

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